Illustrious file photo [3469]


CountryUnited Kingdom
Ship ClassIllustrious-class Aircraft Carrier
BuilderVickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, Britain
Laid Down27 Apr 1937
Launched5 Apr 1939
Commissioned25 May 1940
Decommissioned1 Dec 1954
Displacement23,000 tons standard; 28,661 tons full
Length744 feet
Beam95 feet
Draft28 feet
Machinery6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 Parsons geared turbines, 3 shafts
Power Output110,000 shaft horsepower
Speed30 knots
Range10,700nm at 10 knots
Armament8x2 QF 4.5in naval guns, 6x8 QF 2 pounder naval guns
Aircraft15 Fulmar, 18 Swordfish


ww2dbaseIllustrious was the lead ship in her class of aircraft carriers. The design was unique in the sense that the flight deck was armored, unlike many of her contemporaries outside her class; however, the added protection also limited the total number of aircraft she was capable of carrying. Her first assignment brought her to the Mediterranean Sea where her main mission was to launch aircraft which covered Malta convoys. In Nov 1940, she launched 21 torpedo bombers against the Italian fleet at Taranto, and achieved spectacular success after sinking one battleship and damaging two others. On 11 Jan 1941, she was attacked by German dive bombers while escorting a convoy, suffering 8 bomb hits. While repair work was being done at Malta, she was once again bombed. She sailed for Alexandria, Egypt for temporary repairs, and then sailed for the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia, United States for permanent repairs.

ww2dbaseThe repair work completed in May 1942. By which time, Japan had entered the war, threatening British possessions in Asia. The British Royal Navy, particularly, suffered a damaging defeat after the Japanese raids into the Indian Ocean in Mar-Apr 1942. As a result, Illustrious was dispatched to the Indian Ocean instead of returning to the Mediterranean. In May 1942, her aircraft provided cover for the British troops landing at Diego Suarez, Madagascar against French and French colonial troops.

ww2dbaseIn 1943, Illustrious returned to the Mediterranean Sea and joined Force H based in Gibraltar. In Sep 1943, her aircraft covered Allied troops in the Sicily invasion.

ww2dbaseIn 1944, Illustrious returned to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean for strikes against Japanese garrisons in the Southwest Pacific region. In 1945, after a period of rest and re-supply in Fremantle, Australia, she sailed north and joined Allied Task Force 57 to cover the Okinawa operation. Off Okinawa, she was hit and damaged by two Japanese special attack aircraft.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Illustrious' role was reduced to a training and trials ship due to the heavy damage suffered during WW2. She was finally modernized between Jan and Aug 1948, and then served another six years before she was decommissioned. She was sold for scrap on 3 Nov 1954 and was broken up in 1956 as Faslane.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: May 2007

Aircraft Carrier Illustrious Interactive Map


Illustrious underway, date unknownHMS Illustrious under Stuka dive bomber attack in the Mediterranean Sea near Malta, 10 Jan 1941Aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious underway, 1942.  A Swordfish torpedo plane is on the flight deck and an admiralty disruptive camouflage scheme also extends across the flight deck.HMS Valiant firing in exercise, 1942; HMS Illustrious with Fulmar and Martlet aircraft in foreground
See all 20 photographs of Aircraft Carrier Illustrious

Illustrious Operational Timeline

23 Jan 1940 British carrier HMS Illustrious left Malta for Alexandria, Egypt.
25 May 1940 Illustrious was commissioned into service.
30 Aug 1940 The brand-new armoured aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, and a powerful escort left Gibraltar. Although her air group was small (only 15 fighters and 18 bomber aircraft), Illustrious was one of the first warships to be fitted with air-warning radars which gave her a big advantage in fleet defence, as she could detect and track hostile aircraft and give her aircraft time to gain altitude. With both Illustrious and Eagle under his command, Admiral Cunningham could now take the offensive.
17 Sep 1940 British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier HMS Illustrious attacked the port of Benghazi, Libya, bombing shipping and laying mines. Italian destroyer Borea was sunk by torpedoes and destroyer Aquilone was damaged by a mine. Italian merchant ships Gloria Stella and Maria Eugenia were also sunk.
20 Dec 1940 15 British carrier aircraft from HMS Illustrious attacked an Italian convoy off Kerkennah islands, Tunisia between 0515 and 0615 hours, sinking two of the three ships in the convoy.
23 Jan 1941 British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, damaged by Stuka dive bombers on 10 Jan, completed temporary repairs and departed Malta for Alexandria, Egypt with destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Juno, HMS Janus, and HMS Greyhound in escort.
25 Jan 1941 HMS Illustrious arrived at Alexandria, Egypt.
7 May 1942 British Fleet Air Arm Swordfish aircraft of HMS Illustrious spotted French submarine Le Héros off Courrier Bay, Madagascar at 0500 hours and attacked with depth charges; Le Héros attempted to evade by diving, but ultimately would be forced to surface and would be scuttled by her own crew to prevent capture.
21 Mar 1944 HMS Cumberland carried out offensive sweep in Indian Ocean with HM Battleships Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, HM Battlecruiser Renown, HM Aircraft Carrier Illustrious, HM Cruisers London, Gambia and Ceylon screened by fleet destroyers. (Operation Diplomat).
19 Apr 1944 Admiral Sir James Somerville's new Eastern Fleet launched a devastating raid on the oil refinery at Sabang in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies with aircraft flown from the carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga escorted by HMS Cumberland, HMS Renown, USS Cummings, and others.
17 May 1944 The oil refineries at the Wonokromo district of Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies and the nearby Braat Engineering Works were struck by British and American carrier aircraft struck by carrier aircraft of the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet made up of carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga escorted by HMS Cumberland, HMS Renown, USS Cummings, and others.
10 Jun 1944 British carrier HMS Illustrious and the escort carrier HMS Atheling, with covering forces, began a series of diversionary raids on Sabang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, with the goal of tying down Japanese forces during the American Operation Forager attack on the Mariana Islands.
10 Jun 1944 Vice-Admiral Arthur Power carried out another raid on Port Blair in the Nicobar Islands with carrier HMS Illustrious, battleship HMS Renown, and French battleship Richelieu, with light covering forces. Eight Corsair and 15 Barracuda aircraft attacked the Japanese airfield and harbour. Two British aircraft were lost.
13 Jun 1944 British carrier HMS Illustrious and the escort carrier HMS Atheling, with covering forces, completed a series of diversionary raids on Sabang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, with the goal of tying down Japanese forces during the American Operation Forager attack on the Mariana Islands.
1 Dec 1954 Illustrious was decommissioned from service.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Mike Jones says:
16 May 2008 09:21:23 PM

The German dive-bombing attack on HMS Illustrious was actually on Jan 10th, 1941, not Jan 11th.
2. Anonymous says:
23 Feb 2011 02:08:17 PM

I believe my father was the last soul to perish on HMS Illustrious. He was a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm and went over the side on August 15th 1945. I am told that the hook on the underside of his aircraft was damaged in an earlier skirmish and did not catch the wire which would have slowed his plane down. Is here anyone who might remember this incident?
3. mackay says:
14 Aug 2011 12:26:07 PM

4. DNyman says:
13 Mar 2013 04:51:00 AM

My uncle, Ron Nyman, was the 'Scribe' on Illustrious. He has now passed away but left some very interesting notes about his time on it. Officer John Brooks was mentioned in his notes.
5. C Simmonite says:
11 Aug 2013 02:12:00 PM

My dad was on the Illustrious all through the war. His name was Derrick Bamforth. I have only just become interested in his exploits and have found it totally fascinating. All the crew must have experienced all the horrors of warfare during their time on the ship throughout WW2. I am extremely proud to be his daughter and to find out what a huge part the ship took in the war.He died at the age of 42 when I was 16 so I never knew or spoke to him about what he did in the war.
6. Ralph Brown says:
26 Sep 2013 04:28:36 PM

My father also served on the Illustrious as Leading Air Fitter & got Mentioned in Despatches for something he did on board in 1941. Like others I would like to know more about his life in WW2. His name was John Brown aka Chick Brown.
7. W.Lucas says:
21 May 2014 02:50:17 AM

My Dad Ron Lucas served throughout the war on the Illustrious - still alive nearly 94 years old. Great stories of conflict in the Med. Damage to the ship and repair in the States, Norfolk Viginia.
8. James says:
14 Jun 2014 12:05:56 PM

My dad, who is now 59 told me that his father served on the Illustrious who sadly died in 1996, his name was William Fitzsimmons, a scottish man
9. Alasdair Thompson says:
2 Oct 2014 05:56:09 AM

My father, Barry Roland Thompson, born in 1924, piloted Fairey Barracuda bombers off Illustrious against Japanese positions on Sabang Island and Surabaya in 1944. He passed away in 2007.
10. s claydon says:
8 Nov 2014 04:23:49 AM

My father served on the illustrious he was the P.O Radio mechanic from 1942 he never talked about his time on the illustrious and I have always wanted to learn of the ships exploits I have tried finding a role call for the ship but cannot find anything his name was Sackville frank Claydon he died in 2008
11. james drummond begg says:
30 Nov 2014 07:07:32 AM

My late Uncle Jim...James Drummond Begg , after whom I am named, served on Illustrious as a Swordfish Aerial Torpedo Bomber pilot but failed to return from patrol with his two crew on 25 March 1942. I was told they got lost and radioed for a bearing but the carrier would not reply as it had got wind of U-boat activity in the area and might have given away its position.I would howver love to access the ship's log for further information if anyone knows how to do that.

Uncle Jim was going to be a doctor but then the mantle fell on my late father William George Alexander Begg who followed his elder brother to Glasgow University and qualified M.B., ChB., in 1946.

There was a strange affinity with three of the Kennedy brothers ( i.e. brothers of JFK )as Joe Kennedy the elder brother was being groomed to be a [politician and ultimately President by old Joe Kennedy Senr., but Joe was also killed flying in WW II on a secret mission out of England when his bomber packed with explosives blew up before he reached the target and before he could bale out and was supposed to do and let the aircraft continue as a flying bomb ...

Anyway ,John F.Kennedy as the second son assumed the mantle of politician and president just as my father then became the doctor and later Consultant.

John F Kennedy had a smaller and less handsome brother called Robert who became Attorney General and my father had a smaller and less handsome brother who became a London Metropolitan Policeman...or to put it another way both became Law Enforcement Officers.

The Kennedys had several sisters as well and my father and Uncle Jim also had two sisters..Barbara and Margaret.

my father had a strange resemblance to President Kennedy with the same build and shape of head. Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961 ..the same year my father became a Consultant...Kenndy was killed at the Age of 46 and my father had a major stroke at the age of 44 and when Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 many of the patients in my father's psychiatric hospital thought it was my father who had been shot.

Anyway , I still have my Uncle Jim's medals which arrived at his home in Prestwick Scotland after he had been reported missing at sea , presumed killed.

I enclose a link to him in The Roll of Honour for WW II at Glasgow University where you may review his details and a photograph of him ( one of only 4 )and I am naturally extremely proud of him.

He had been a medical student at Glasgow University for two years before joining up from his "reserved occupation" like so many others.
12. David Bilcliffe says:
25 Jan 2015 01:55:12 PM

I have a photo of a Swordfish at RNAS Tanga, Tanganyika - taken in (I think Aug-Dec 1942); there are no visible fuselage numbers / serials / markings - the only clue is a "5" painted over the roundel. Any ideas which aircraft this might be i.e. serial number? Anyone interested please email. Thank you in anticipation. David
13. carol T says:
25 Apr 2015 03:01:32 AM

Hi I would love to find out more about my dad's service on HMS Illustrious. His name is Ken Milward and all I know is that he was on the Illustrious when it was bombed in Malta. He was injured in the bombing but would never talk about it. Sadly he passed away in 1995.
14. Mike McMeekan says:
28 Apr 2015 12:29:59 AM father was a chief petty officer on board the Illustrious, I am not sure of the dates, but would be very interested to hear feedback about anyone who might have known him or had any information on the dates he served etc.
Thank you ............mike
15. Peter Hall says:
7 May 2015 02:39:34 AM

I am trying to find out about my uncle Jupp who was a flying officer and was killed a couple of day before the *** surrendered while landing his plane back on ship,he also won the DFC for his part in attacking the Bismark can any one help.
16. Anonymous says:
17 Sep 2015 12:06:50 PM

My uncle Tom Dyer was on the illustrious he was a petty officer I think
17. Mackay says:
6 Nov 2015 08:30:15 AM

Im sad to say that my grandfather has died st the age of 94
18. DhartshornAnonymous says:
19 Jun 2016 04:26:44 AM

My father Olso served on the illustrious from 1946 I think he was on the ak aks his name is William mervyn hartshorn
19. Edina MacDonald says:
26 Aug 2016 04:40:48 PM

James Drummond Begg,

My Grandmother was engaged to your Uncle at the time of his death. They met here in Ontario. She kept a copy of the photo on the University website in an album that I loved to look at as a child.

We would love to know more about him, since she had loved him so much.

If you see this, could you let us know how to contact you?
20. mike brockwell says:
1 Sep 2016 02:08:06 AM

I am look for a john macavoy brown who served on hms illustrious in world war 2
21. IAN NEWTON says:
2 Sep 2016 05:22:12 PM

My Dad Herbert James Newton ( known as Jim) served on Illustrious from her repair in Malta 1941 until the end of the war. He was a petty officer Mechanic/fitter worked on all the aircraft engines. He didn't talk much about how bad it was, mates he lost, but he did talk fondly about the carrier, the aircraft, the places he had visited. Would love to know more, sadly he passed away only a few years ago, but I'm sure like many of the people on here he could have filled a book with memories.
22. Dominic cox says:
3 Sep 2016 08:55:31 AM

My Father served on Hms illustrious during ww2 he cherished his war time photographs including picture of his best friend who sadly didn't make it home due to a attack from a Japanese aircraft.
All his pictures where stolen during a break in at his home.
I took him to the imperial war museum to try and get copy's.
However there was very limited pictures.
Has anybody got any ideas if there is anything I can do
23. Nick Davidson says:
13 Nov 2016 04:13:31 PM

I'm wondering if anyone knew of my grandfather William 'Jock' Davidson who served on Illustrious during WW2?

He never talked much about it but I know he held deep affection for the ship and her crew.

Can anyone help?
24. Jonathan Switzman says:
16 Jan 2017 03:48:59 PM

My grandfather LWC Clark was a commissioned gunner with knowledge of radar who was temporarily assigned from instruction duties @ HMS Drake -Devonport from HMS Glasgow to the Illustrious somewhere around 1941 I think. He received a commendation for his courage & coolheaded performance under battle conditions for which he was promoted to Lieutenant. He told a story about walking out of the mess room just as a torpedo went through it and killed his colleague, and i think it was on the Illustrious where this happened. There are stories too about being on board the Glasgow when it rescued King Haakon of Norway. Wish I payed more attention to the detail!
25. Lynn Brown says:
15 Feb 2017 03:51:51 AM

My Dad was Harry Brown he joined RN in April 1943 age 17 after training he joined HMS Illustrious. He remained there until the end of the war when he was then demobbed. He always talked of his ship with deep affection also his mates too! I was born in 1948. I have two sons who both joined the Navy. They trained as MEO & WEO serving 20yrs and still serving now. I'm so proud of our family's RN connections. My two Grandsons are already talking of joining the RN & RM that is if they can't play for Manchester City! They are 8 & 5 now. Thank you to all for keeping us safe! God Bless you all.
26. eames m.s. says:
8 Apr 2017 10:48:34 AM

Anyone know Ted Eames on Illutrious 39 - 45
27. IAN NEWTON says:
15 Jun 2017 03:04:43 PM

My late father Herbert James Newton ( known as Jim) served on illustrious in the Med, on her leaving Malta 1941 through to when she was in the Indian Ocean. He was a petty officer aircraft engine fitter, working on Swordfish, Seafires and Grummans. He was a brilliant engineer for the rest of his working life and always spoke of illustrious affectionately.
28. mick eames says:
16 Jul 2017 08:40:57 AM

Is there anyone out left there who may remember Eddy (Ted) EAMES, aircraft tech on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 1939 / 45.
E.mail me: Please be intouch
29. Anonymous says:
28 Jul 2017 11:16:44 PM

Did American personnel serve on H M S Illustrious during the Second World War
30. bob wadsworth says:
3 Nov 2017 08:48:47 AM

my late father John Wadsworth served on Illustrious from 1943-45 does anyone remember him?
31. Richard Collier says:
7 Nov 2017 10:59:43 PM

Does anybody remember Bernard Collier who was a photographer and served on the Illustrious from May 1943 to September 1945.
32. Bronzesnake says:
25 Jan 2018 03:45:40 AM

Hey Bob and Richard - I'm looking for info related to my father also, and he served aboard the Illustrious in 43 through 45 also!

I can't find his name so far, and I hope someone can point me to a list of sailors during this time.

God bless you fellas, to find your relative's info FAST!

Take care
Jack - Canada
33. Anonymous says:
31 Mar 2018 02:06:46 PM

I have this great photo of a marshaller on Illustriuous. As a matter of fact, the exact man features briefly in a Pathé clip, described as a 'Deck Landing Officer'. The clip was from 1942. Can anyone help find a list of personnel from that year? I would really like to find him
34. Anonymous says:
5 Apr 2018 03:26:32 PM

Illustrious was not broken up at Faslane but at the famous breakers-yard at Donnybristle on the Forth. I remeber seeing her there from 'the bridge'. My father had served on her c.1943 so we all wept to see her there!
35. Anonymous says:
7 Apr 2018 02:31:08 AM

Now my brain has escaped from senility for a while ... of course it was not at Donibristle that 'lust' was broken up (it was an aircraft repair depot). It was the yard at Inverkeithing!
36. Steve says:
3 May 2018 08:17:41 AM

Thank you. Does anyone know why no effort was made to preserve her as a museum ship like rhe Belfast?
37. Anonymous says:
22 Aug 2018 03:53:46 AM

Wonderful stuff. Thank you so much.
One quick question: you list the Illustrious as having an 11,000 nautical mile range at 14 knots. I see Wikipedia has her listed at 11,000 miles at 10 knots ..... a big difference!
Who is right?
38. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
22 Aug 2018 04:58:29 AM

Anonymous of 22 Aug 2018: Thank you. I am unable to find where I may have gotten the 14 knots figure, so I will conclude that it must had been a typographical error on my part. I have made the correction.
39. Anonymous says:
31 Jul 2019 08:24:28 AM

Great information , My grandfather was on this ship. Is there more records I can look at?
40. Andrew Green says:
2 Dec 2019 03:04:00 AM

Where can I see the fleet air arm lists of crew on the illustrious between 1939/45.
My grandfather was a aircraft mechanic. Frank Green was his name. I know he was in America and Australia and India . He was transferred onto American aircraft carrier in the Pacific . Surly there are crew lists for the whole period ?
Regards Andrew Green
41. Michael Forde says:
12 Jan 2020 11:40:26 AM

My Father Lcdr Anthony Forde was a pilot on Illustrious during WW2
Any info on him would be gratefully received
Thank you
42. david sperry says:
25 Mar 2020 05:39:58 PM

my uncle was william ernest sperry
who flew fairy swordfish he was on
patrol and found italian ships by the island
of kerkennah radioed the position to his ship the illustrious but he was never seen again
swordfish were sent to that area and sunk
two of the ships.
i would really welcome any imformation
if anyone has any
thank you david sperry
43. Dan Cunliffe says:
9 Jun 2020 02:18:58 AM

Hi my Grandad was a petty officer on illustrious. His name was Edward James Cunliffe.
If there’s any information regarding him I’d love to know it. Thanks
44. Scott says:
26 Oct 2020 04:10:30 PM

My Great Uncle Ron Woolley from Mansfield was proudly on the HMS Illustrious in WW2. I believe he was Petty Officer. Any information about home would be warmly received.
Thank you so much.
45. Martin Appleby says:
4 Nov 2020 12:08:36 PM

We are looking for any information on Norman Senior Durham who served on Illustrious 1939 - 1945 we believe he was a gunner
46. Clare Gregory says:
28 Nov 2020 04:28:29 AM

My grandfather, Henry Ronald Gregory, served on the HMS Illustrious during WW2. I would love to hear if his name is mentioned or recorded anywhere
47. Anonymous says:
8 Dec 2020 03:34:21 PM

My father was the surgeon on this ship.Dr. R. Woolstencroft.
48. John Colam says:
29 Jan 2021 12:32:44 PM

My father John James COLAM served in 1833 squadron FAA on HMS illustrious 1943 to end of the war, anyone have any knowledge of him?
49. Anonymous says:
3 Feb 2021 12:49:35 PM

My great uncle was on this ship as an engineer and helped to limo it back after it was struck in 44 and was awarded many medals for his bravery and helping to save this ship from being scuttled due to major engine and structural damages
50. Anonymous says:
3 Feb 2021 12:50:24 PM

My great uncle was on this ship as an engineer and helped to limo it back after it was struck in 44 and was awarded many medals for his bravery and helping to save this ship from being scuttled due to major engine and structural damages
51. Matthew Bell says:
5 Jul 2021 08:52:59 AM

My Grandfather, Patrick Joseph Bell served on the HMS Illustrious, I am trying to find out as much information as I can on his service history and any help would be greatly appriciated! I know he came out of WW2 with a fee medals and a lot of stories!
52. Dennis Cassells-Minnoch says:
26 Dec 2021 06:04:46 PM

My uncle David C Minnoch was a Leading Stoker on HMS Illustrious at Singapore on 12 Sept 1945 when Lord Mountbatten took the surrender of the Japanese forces there. can anyone confirm this and do you have his service number or other details or photos of him. Cheers Dennis C-M
53. IAN NEWTON says:
28 Nov 2022 10:46:42 AM

My late father Herbert James Newton known as Jim. He was a Petty Officer mechanic on aircraft engines. Swordfish, Seafires, Corsairs. He joined Illustrious as she left Malta and remained on her until demob at the end of the war. Could anyone let me know what medals he would have gained.Thank you
54. Evelyn says:
10 May 2023 12:42:42 PM

My grandfather, James Kerr served on this ship. Any information about him would be appreciated

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More on Illustrious
» Stan Laurie

Event(s) Participated:
» Malta Campaign
» Attack on Taranto
» Madagascar Campaign
» Invasion of Sicily and Italy's Surrender
» Operation Cockpit and Operation Transom
» Okinawa Campaign

» UK Aircraft Carrier Functions
» UK Aircraft Carrier Time Operational

Aircraft Carrier Illustrious Photo Gallery
Illustrious underway, date unknown
See all 20 photographs of Aircraft Carrier Illustrious

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